Communicate in a clinical or public health micro-laboratory

Dr. Zenda Berrada, D (ABMM), episode host.

Source: Dr. Zenda Berrada, D(ABMM)

Laboratory workers have a strong focus on developing scientific and technical knowledge and skills. However, it is also important to develop the ability to communicate with colleagues and customers, as well as to establish and maintain interpersonal relationships in the laboratory to facilitate a good team. In this episode of Career Conversations for the Clinical and Public Health LabZenda Berrada, Ph.D., D(ABMM), head of the microbial disease laboratory program at the California Department of Public Health, and her guests, Linda Guthertz, public health microbiology trainer at the California Department of Public Health and Mondraya Howard, Ph.D., a research scientist in the Department of Clinical Microbiology at the University of Rochester Medicine Laboratories, discusses good communication skills and communication barriers.

When practicing good communication skills, it is important to implement the following tools:

  • Be aware of the other forms of communication that one can emit (verbal, written and body language).
  • Be clear, concise, concrete, correct and consistent.
  • Be aware of his tone.
  • Be patient.
  • Confirm the expectations of each team member.
  • Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know.
  • Listen carefully.
  • When talking to colleagues and clients, remember that both parties share a common goal.

Communication Barriers and Ways to Overcome Them

More communication

Dr Mondraya Howard
Dr. Mondraya Howard, episode guest.

Source: Dr. Mondraya Howard

“Over-communication can be a barrier to effective communication in the workplace,” Howard said. Overloading someone with too much information can lead to confusion and the purpose of the conversation can be lost. To avoid over-communicating, Howard suggested taking a moment before a conversation to confirm main points. Sticking to these points, while keeping additional details, facilitates a simpler and clearer conversation.

Lack of confidence

Another barrier to clear communication is lack of trust. Howard suggested that working with a trusted member of the group to develop strategies for sharing information with the group as a whole can help ease fears of being misunderstood. This method also works if you are uncomfortable sharing in front of a group.


Having patience with the intended audience is also important. Laboratory workers work with colleagues from diverse cultural and educational backgrounds. “When speaking to someone whose first language is not English, be patient and understanding, as that person may not feel comfortable with their words,” Guthertz suggested.

Berrada added, “When talking to someone who doesn’t know the technical language, be sure to describe the situation in terms they would understand.”

Lack of confidence

Another way to overcome these communication barriers is to speak up in training. “There are no dumb questions,” Howard said. “This can let the trainer know that the trainee wants to know more about the tests in progress. It also helps the trainer to relearn gaps in their knowledge and improve their training. The trainer has already been in the trainee’s shoes and understands that questions need to be asked. We can also express ourselves by sharing constructive comments during or after a collaborative project.

Guthertz suggested joining a local book club or toastmasters club. “Volunteering to give a presentation after learning the lab language,” Guthertz said. Those looking to practice their presentation skills can volunteer to give presentations at a lab meeting or submit a case study to ASM. Finally, ask for feedback.

Resolving workplace conflict and improving working relationships

“Don’t let the problems escalate. Deal with them as soon as possible, otherwise they could snowball until they are finally resolved. Keep an open mind when discussing the conflict and listen to the other person’s point of view as well. You don’t know what the other is going through and there may be an underlying personal issue,” Howard said.

Linda Guthertz
Linda Guthertz, guest on the episode.

Source: Linda Guthertz

“If there are 2 employees who are having trouble communicating, their supervisor may consider assigning them to additional projects and helping them find other ways to communicate,” Guthertz said.

Lab workers can also improve relationships with colleagues and supervisors by celebrating birthdays and other milestones. Finally, find ways to welcome a new colleague to the lab. This will help kick-start working relationships between new and existing colleagues.

Ways to develop communication skills

“You have to take control of your own professional development,” Howard said. “If something looks interesting in the aisle, talk to that tech who works there. Lab workers can interact with other benches to learn more and improve their conversational skills. Take advantage of opportunities to learn from other benches and cross-training in the lab This shows his supervisor that he is interested and wants to be involved, which may lead him to lead future projects.

“Take advantage of any non-technical training the lab institution may have,” Berrada suggested. “Be proactive in seeking out these opportunities. Go to conferences and talk to other professionals. You have to get out of your comfort zone. »

Similarly, Guthertz added, “When you go to a conference, go to a few different sessions of what you’re doing. This will help broaden his knowledge.

Finally, Guthertz advised, “Lab workers should keep a notebook in their lab coat pocket and write things down. One will learn skills and information from someone who has been on the bench for decades – that may not be found in textbooks. Also, read as much as possible. The more you read, the more comfortable you feel with the subject.

Career Conversations for the Clinical and Public Health Laboratory Scientist is a bi-annual discussion about career advancement in clinical and public health laboratories. Members of the ASM Clinical Microbiology Mentoring Subcommittee (CMMS) will invite guests from clinical microbiology and public health laboratories to discuss laboratory-specific topics. The goal of CMMS is to help others learn about the profession and advance their careers in the clinical microbiology or public health laboratory.

The CMMS offers career advancement activities for newcomers to the field of clinical microbiology or public health. His list of mentors is available to answer all your career development questions.

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